A week after the brutal slaying of three Newark, N.J., college students, the community is still in shock.
"I'm really petrified to even walk down the street," said Brianna Jolley, a friend of one of the victims.
Dashon Harvey was just 20 years old. The psychology major at Delaware State University was an aspiring model and described as fun-loving and respectful.
"I couldn't believe it, not my boy," said Harvey's father, James, recalling the night his son was killed. "Why? For what? Who did it? Why would they want to do that? I can't fathom that. I can't believe that," he said.
"[I've] got to buy him a suit for burial instead of his graduation and that's a shock to me."
Harvey and his friends Terrance Aerial, 18, and Iofemi Hightower, 20, were forced to kneel down and were shot execution style at a school playground. Aerial's sister Natasha, 19, was shot and stabbed, but survived the attack.
In many of the nation's cities such violence is hardly unique.
Last year, murders were up a disturbing 6.7 percent in cities with a million or more residents. Additionally, according to the FBI, there were more than 670,000 assaults with firearms between 2001 and 2005.
"If you ask people what was the reason for violence in the '90s, it was almost universally crack cocaine. Today it is much more complicated than that," said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.
"What we are seeing today is the re-emergence of a number of key factors," Wexler said. "You have gangs out there. You have a higher percentage of juveniles. You have over 600,000 people coming out of prison and you've got a lot of guns out on the street, higher-level guns, all coming together in a combustible mixture."
Recent crimes across the United States, in addition to the murders in Newark, illustrate the problem.
In Oakland, Calif., a newspaper editor was fatally shot Aug. 2, just before a bloody weekend in which seven other people were killed in gunfire. Philadelphia is surging toward a 10-year high in homicides.
Florida's Orange County had a record-breaking 121 murders last year. The violence continues at nearly the same pace in 2007. Many communities across the country are wrestling with chronic, sustained carnage, often by repeat offenders.
"I had two deputies shot and the three individuals involved had 88 total arrests," Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary told ABC News.
"We are also seeing more guns involved, not only handguns, but we've got a bit of a violent gang mentality out there where they want to carry the high-powered semiautomatic handguns, but they'll also go to a semiautomatic rifle at times," Beary said.
Many battle-tested police are shocked at the cold-blooded disregard for life.
"Having been in police work for 26 years, I've seen a lot of terrible incidents, but how can somebody put a bullet in someone else's head and then do it again and again and again?" asked Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy. "I mean, it's just — God didn't put us here like that."
Arrests have been made and robbery appears to be the motive in the shooting of Harvey and his friends. Harvey died for a few dollars.
"[This was] not drug related, not gang related. [He was] just out there having fun, having a good time. He was a good kid," James Harvey said of his son.
"When you are doing the positive things in life that you are supposed to do, nothing in the world should ever happen to you like this. Why should you die on the street by gunfire instead of old age? It shouldn't happen, not in this world today."
For Harvey and many others the reality is hitting close to home — and it is happening with alarming frequency all across the country.